It’s no big surprise that most millennials are waaay more comfortable sending a text than talking on the phone. In fact, a 2015 UK Deloitte survey found that the number of smartphone users who made at least one voice call per week has dropped from 96 percent to 75 in just three years. While most of us would happily substitute an awkward phone call with a carefully constructed instant message in a heartbeat, there are certain circumstances where it’s simply impossible to avoid dialing (e.g., personal matters, job interviews, etc.). But if the thought of talking on the phone has already got you tongue-tied, don’t worry. We’ve enlisted the help of five smooth-talking experts for their top tips on making chatting on the phone less intimidating.
1. Skip the script and prepare some general talking points. Instead of writing down word-for-word what you want to say, licensed psychologist and owner of LA Concierge Psychologist Dr. Crystal I. Lee tells us to jot down all the general points you want to make during your phone call. “Lots of people suggest writing a script, but I’ve found that to be counterproductive,” she notes. “The person you’re talking to is not going to follow the script, so when they inevitably say or ask you something you haven’t prepared for, you’re going to feel even more thrown off because all you can think of are the statements in your script!” Instead, list all the important topics that need to be discussed on a scrap piece of paper. It’ll help you stay focused and give you something tangible to look at if you start scrambling.
2. Practice saying your points in different ways. “When I talk about practicing, I don’t mean memorize them word-for-word,” notes Dr. Lee. “That’s also counterproductive because, if you forget some of it, you’re going to get flustered. You have your basic bullet points you want to convey. Now practice saying them several different ways that feel natural to you and then make the call.”
3. Remember who you’re talking to. “Most of the time, my clients are talking to people they’ll never have to talk to again,” Dr. Lee says. “So I remind them of that.” While talking on the phone may seem overwhelming and majorly frightening, the reality is you’re probably never going to talk to this person again… so who cares if you stumble or jumble up your words a little? “And if you’re talking to someone you know, then they’ll probably give you a pass if you’re a little nervous or stammer a little,” Dr. Lee adds.
4. Imagine the conversation going well in your head right before you make the call. That’s right, ladies! If making a call is stressing you out, try to envision everything going smoothly right before you pick up your cell and dial. “This is what LeBron James does at the free throw line. He pictures himself making that basketball shot,” notes clinical psychologist and author of Stop Anxiety from Stopping You ($17) Dr. Helen Odessky.
5. Work on breathing and shoulder tension. “So many people hold tension in their shoulders by holding the phone, and that adds to the anxiety,” notes founder of The Engaging Educator Jen Oleniczak Brown. Luckily, it’s a simple fix. “Raise your shoulders up to your ears, hold them there, and then let them drop after five seconds. Do this three times, breathing the whole way through.”
6. Try using a grounding technique right before you dial. If surrounding yourself with positive vibes and doing a few breathing exercises aren’t doing the trick, NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson suggests trying a grounding technique. “When your mind starts racing at the thought of getting on the phone, bring yourself to the present by naming 10 objects surrounding you. This takes the focus back to the present moment.” You’ll feel more relaxed within a minute.
7. Call your local pizza joint for practice. “To get over a fear of talking on the phone, you have to change the physical sensations in your body from being associated with a bad outcome to being associated with power,” notes full-time adventurer, fear guru, and motivational speaker Patrick Sweeney. “The best way to do this is to pick up the phone and call someone with absolutely no possibility of anything bad happening. For instance, call up a local pizza shop and ask if they deliver. When you make the call be acutely aware of where you feel fear in your body — butterflies in your stomach, dry mouth, sweaty palms, etc. Then start to tell yourself those feelings are signs of your body getting stronger, and try to imagine them coming when positive things happen. This is exposure and association therapy and it works!”
8. Schedule some reflection time after you make *every* phone call. Because every phone call is a learning experience, it’s important to reflect on what worked and what didn’t after every single call when you’re first starting out, advises Oleniczak Brown. Eventually, once you learn how your body and mind react better, you’ll be able to shorten these reflections and slay your phone calls without even thinking about it!
How do you calm your anxiety while talking on the phone? Tweet us your tips by mentioning @BritandCo.